After You Hit Submit: How to Manage Waiting for the Admissions Decision

Many high school seniors have just submitted their early applications. While exciting, this can also be anxiety producing – hitting “submit” for the first time means letting go of the application and turning the process over to colleges. It’s impossible to eliminate all stress and anxiety in the college admissions process, but it can be helpful to remind students of the following:

  • An admissions decision is not a referendum on their worth as a person. Admissions offices are tasked with putting together a well-rounded class: sometimes that means a soccer player, sometimes a poet, sometimes more women in STEM. These institutional priorities shift from year to year so students admitted one year might not even be admitted the next.
  • Accomplishments do not equate with happiness. As Emily Esfahini Smith, author of The Power of Meaning, explains, people who focus on their achievements are less happy than those who focus on being good, wise and generous. Students can do this at any college (or no college at all).
  • Nothing good comes from students comparing themselves to their friends and classmates. In fact, as psychologist Lisa Firestone points out in The Wait for the College Acceptance Letter, “these comparisons can lead students to feel competitiveness [that can] strain their friendships, which leads to more distress.”


Parents can help alleviate stress just by being present and listening to their children. According to Hillside, a mental health provider in Atlanta, by encouraging students to talk and share their feelings when they are overwhelmed, parents relieve students of “the burden of carrying stress alone.” This helps student put the application process into perspective and recognize that “every college offers opportunities and chances to thrive, and [that] they can find a great match that will inspire them and help them grow” at many places. Hillside also recommends:

  • Making sure students eat well and get adequate sleep.
  • Reminding students of the big picture when they feel overwhelmed.
  • Removing some of the pressure by not spending every moment talking about college.
  • Enjoying quality time with students that gives them a break from thinking about college.
  • Reassuring students that you are there for them no matter what.
  • Maintaining a positive attitude.
  • Emphasizing that success is measured by good health, character and learning new things rather than acceptance into a college.


When I work with students, my goal is to empower them in the college application process, to help them situate applying to college as their first step toward adulting. Becoming an adult has its stresses, but one of them should not be defining the first 18 years of life by where a student is admitted to college.